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Now that you have a tool to help control your environment, your next step is to enroll in an obedience class. Obedience training will create a way for you to communicate with your dog. In a basic obedience class, you will learn how to teach your dog to sit, down, stay, come and heel on command. Going to class every week will also help you socialize your dog around other dogs and people.

It is important when selecting a class to look for an instructor with knowledge of canine behavior who is capable of reading your dog's behavior and selecting the best methods for his temperament. Sometimes there are lifestyle changes that must be put in place. It may be important that you instill "manners" that go beyond obedience training.

Maintaining a proper relationship between you and your dog may mean that you teach him how to greet strangers properly, that you always go first out the door and that you don't allow your dog in your bed or on the furniture. Decide early in your relationship what behaviors you want to live with and remain consistent in carrying out your wishes. Your dog will respect you for it. Ask your obedience instructor for guidance if you run into problems.

Finally, find ways to bond with your dog through physical activity. Your dog is a social creature and requires stimulation and exercise on a daily basis. Although some dogs are content spending time watching a movie with you at home and going for walks in the park or around the neighborhood, many dogs need more. A great majority of dog breeds were originally developed to serve man and have a "job." These dogs need to exercise their working drives and to use their intelligence productively. You may need to provide activity for this type of dog to fulfill his needs.

Consider taking obedience classes that go on to off-lead work, higher levels of distraction training and retrieve work. Or perhaps your dog would enjoy an agility class. These types of classes will encourage your dog to learn because it's fun and increase your leadership status.

Whatever activities you may enjoy, remember that your new dog needs your time and commitment to develop into a confident, loving, well-behaved family member. Your extra time will be well worth the years of enjoyment!

Joan Harris is a regular contributor to Angel Tales, the magazine of PAWS Chicago. She serves as Head Trainer at K9 University in Chicago. This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of Angel Tales.

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